Chapter 3: Check-In

1. I am averaging at about 80% on Morning Pages lately, at least as far as doing them only in the morning. Structured time is hard to come by, and unstructured time is easily eaten by medical appointments and random have-to-deal-with-it crap that comes up in my Outer Richmond Rapunzel-tower.

2. I have no memory of whether I did an artist date, which suggests I did not manage to do one. ūüė¶ I have a really hard time with it lately. At this point, a cup of coffee in a coffeeshop with my phone off would be awesome.

3. Synchronicity: do open parking spaces in San Francisco count?

4. Significant issues: I’m connecting how my wife’s gender transition is touching on some childhood trauma, especially with her new focus on appearance, and my deep gut-wrenched misery at her joy in patriarchal oppression. I am also suddenly more keenly aware of it as something I can’t just choose not to participate in, which is what I used to tell myself. Because I chose to be a feminist, I chose not to be oppressed – and I also chose men that weren’t assholes. Except…it’s becoming really clear even the non-assholes felt entitled to more basic respect than I did, and I somehow kept ending up in a service position anyway. Because oppression is like radon gas: if it’s there, it’s fucking everwhere.

My 3 Most Destructive Habits

1. Putting the needs of my loved ones before myself.
This is absolutely the worst habit I have, and one I need to really start pushing to change. While my partners may consciously agree with this one, I think when radical changes start happening with me there will definitely be pullback, possibly even temper tantrums. Admittedly I may be projecting and expecting them to behave as my mother and sister did every time I made any move forward in life. Especially since I am living in a place I don’t want to live, in a situation I absolutely didn’t want ever, in an apartment that just skates along the minimum standards I had set for a place to live that doesn’t even have a/c – something someone with allergies as severe as mine should have if at all possible. None of this would be happening if I weren’t expected to be the one to make sacrifices. Now I’m pushing for a move to San Jose, which realistically isn’t ideal with my allergy treatments. If there’s heel digging after my treatments are finally finally finished I’m just going to move on my own. I’ve had enough of this being the only one to sacrifice bullshit. I already made that mistake in my first marriage. As it is, I may be gaining weight because of proximity to estrogen shots, so one more way I’m being dragged down without my consent.

I can’t even get my primary partner to clear out the sink in the morning anymore, let alone think ahead to how her actions might affect the person she lives with. It’s nothing new but it’s profoundly irritating lately.

2. TV/Internet
These are my drugs, but at least the Internet is also necessary to my livelihood. They give me a sense of comfort – but that comfort also leads to me not writing, not socializing, making an effort.

And yet conversely

3. Trying to fix everything/overextending myself
I try way too hard to make everything good around me. I know consciously that I should focus on the things that benefit myself, but I still have this childish need to see the people around me happy, naively believing it will fix things for myself. On that I can take a first step: my partner has a date tonight. I have left a mess.

…I am not going to clean up the mess. Part of this is revenge, of course, – there’s no almond milk left for my cereal, I’ve gained another pound and I am PISSED OFF about it, and the one thing I asked her to start doing to make my morning life a little easier she did for a week and then just stopped doing in favor of spending all her time with her second-adolescence social life and putting on makeup. She’s happy, and it’s still at my expense.

So she can deal with cleaning up the goddamn apartment for her date. I have a volunteer gig an a workshop tonight – one where I will be attending feeling less than fully self-confident, thanks to the crap that’s been piled on me by my situation.

5 Traits I Like in Myself as a Child

Alter, Forwood & Co.
1. Curiosity
I wanted to know everything. I asked all the questions. While most people have the worst horror stories about Sunday School teachers stunting a quest for knowledge, I successfully exhausted public school teachers who did not want to assign me a new pigeon hole and got quite irritated at how I kept climbing out of the ones they put me in. I once prayed to God that I really did want to know everything…and I am convinced that God is still answering that prayer, to my chagrin.

2. Imagination
Now that I have my diagnosis, I realize now my ability to a)be in two mental spaces at once (here and not-here) and b)my corollary ability to completely enter an entirely different reality with my eyes open are one of the effects of PTSD and dissociation. My family’s constant drama – and I mean constant – caused me to find a way of shutting down emotionally, but also gave me a way to clearly and powerfully visualize entirely different realities. I imagined something better while standing right in front of the worst of it. My imagination combined with the dissociative reflex probably saved my life in some way, since as an adult my depressions are only temporary and the only serious suicidal thought I ever had happened after I accidentally deleted my entire writing folder.

3. Passion…albeit buried
When I got interested in something, I got really interested. I always thought of it as “interest” but in truth it was passion. I still think I define passion differently from other people and a lot has to do with my near constant state of emotional separation. For me it’s intellectual. I don’t yell at people over trivial details, and yet I’ve heard that defined as passion. I don’t start unnecessary political arguments, yet I’ve heard that defined as passion. Nope – I just got really, really interested and enthusiastic about things every so often. Doctor Who was the first passion of my life, followed by my high school sweetheart, and later on occultism which has remained a lasting passion. Writing and poetry are expressions for me, but not what I’d define as passions – first, I don’t share the passionate love of language that some lit writers do. To me that “passion” for language looks more like vanity and undermines the real purpose of language: to communicate. Literary writing, for all its praise, to me seems to undermine more than uplift society because it actually makes communication more difficult while the authors congratulate themselves on somehow making the masses smarter/”work for it,” and lose a significant chunk of the people that might otherwise benefit from what the writer is ostensibly trying to communicate. While there are exceptions to this – notably from writers who also happen to be women of color most of the time – most literary writing reads to me as a form of oppression, and as another means of deepening race and class divides. Perhaps I have a passion for writing to be understood.

4. Analytical
Did I write about this before? By sixth grade my class became socially complicated as people began pairing off with best friends (those little heart and key necklaces were a big deal) and also having boyfriends/girlfriends. This was all very heteronormative at the time. I had no best friend at the time. This constant relationship interchange also fascinated me. At recess I would sit and watch people as they did their changes and interchanges and actually draw charts and venn diagrams to examine the relationships and the commonalities. I wasn’t sure where I was going with it, but as an adult with the sociology classes to back up those charts now, I’m sure what I captured might actually be quite revelatory given the boyfriend trade-offs, the socio-economic statuses of the people involved, and how much money parents invested in fueling girl-world/female social violence status markers.

5. Good-natured
I honestly didn’t care about winning most of the time. If I tripped and fell in front of the whole school, I got up laughing. While other girls especially took malicious pleasure in laughing at each other and making each other feel horrible, I tried to find things I appreciated in my friends – which was hard, since everyone was a bit abusive to me as the designated social outcast. As an adult, when that good nature disappeared into my PTSD, I think a lot of people were far more shocked than they should have been that years of abuse shorted out my kindness with them. So far though I’ve only had that complete depletion of kindness and humor with people that mistreated me. New folks in my lives still receive my good nature until I have reason to withhold it. In some cases, especially now I’m back in the dating arena, that’s about 2.5 seconds – but for most that will probably go for the rest of our lives.

Detective Work Part III

I am afraid if I start dreaming of new employment, I will simply fall off track with my writing career

I secretly (or not so secretly) enjoy reading sci fi/fantasy novels with lots of sex and compelling female protagonists. I think Laurel K Hamilton would be viewed and admired as a literary genre buster if she used a male pen name. Because a man writing a tedious sex scene is somehow considered art, but when a woman does so, it’s just treated like it’s tedious no matter what esoteric thing might be happening in that scene.

If I’d had a perfect childhood I’d have grown up to be something extroverted – an actor, a politician, a slam poet – something like that.

If it didn’t sound crazy I’d open that occult shop that I’ve wanted to. I am pretty sure San Francisco can sustain more than one, what with all the botanicas that do a booming business and the owners that look genuinely surprised when a white woman walks in.

My parents think artists are – meh. I really truly don’t care what they think or thought anymore. Approval was a zero sum game and living my own life my own way has reaped massive rewards. It’s not even about living a life they would disapprove of – relegating their opinions to irrelevant by itself has been so so freeing.

My God thinks artists are workers, that need to work constantly. That might not be God talking but some embodiment of a Protestant hangover.

What makes me feel weird about this recovery is how I’ve done these exercises twice before and they still reveal new stuff that is profoundly relevant to my creative life.

Learning to trust myself is probably the most important lesson I can learn right now.

My most cheer me up music is...yeah, Taylor Swift. Sorry guys, I am too honest with myself to dig deep into the profound.

My favorite way to dress is according to my mood – lately I’m all about ripped T-shirts and pleated skirts.

Week 3: Detective Work Part I

titans

Dividing this into three parts for my own sanity.

Favorite childhood toy: Usually a doll – Sally, Snoopy, a Raggedy Ann. X-files of course ruined them all for me. Looking back I think I really wanted a real best friend, the kind I never truly got.

Favorite childhood game: Badminton. It was one that was dependent on cooperation and concentration – it seemed like a good mental reset, and usually led to me getting on well with my sibling.

Best movie I ever saw as a kid was Clash of the Titans. I still haven’t watched the remake. I think it seeded the possibility of Paganism in my mind, even if I now do often feel quite unpleasantly like a chess piece that gets moved around.

I don’t do it much but I enjoy collage. I was resistant to it at first, working through Vein of Gold, but it’s actually both effective therapeutically and magically. I’ve been trying to find time and space to do it lately – I forget how much prep is actually involved though.

If I could lighten up a little, I’d let myself go to one of those TV writers meetups. I’m utterly daunted by the writing scene here which is why I’ve barely entered it as of yet.

Week 2: 5 more imaginary lives

Man in greenhouse Arboretum?

1. Bellydance instructor

That seems to be giving way to other things since I am far more interested in dance than I am in performance. Since performance is a measure, I have started leaning deeper into ecstatic dance despite wanting to learn more of the bellydance movement vocabulary. I performed and perform enough in my life. I need one less place where I have to be “on.”

2. Domme

This…is becoming a real possibility, actually. It’s also another place of having to be “on” which is why I’ve sidestepped it.

3. Occult shop owner

this is one of my happy little fantasies, even as I know the work itself would be relentless and consuming – stocking, book keeping, promoting, booking events, dealing with projections from the neighborhood – it’s all a lot. Especially since I would want to tie it in with a full service greenhouse and perfumery. That’s one hell of a lot.

4. Venture capitalist

I would only specialize in plus size fashions and superhero toys based on women. Actually one could well feed the other. I still have some ideas for developing City Center in Minneapolis.

5. Politician

I plan to do all the things short of felonies that should make it really, really difficult to be elected to public office and make all the things I did part of my platform. Things are happening where this could actually be true.

 

Artist’s Way: a letter in my defense

A Letter from Home
Dear Universal Editor:

Teachers are like cops. They either get in for all the right reasons or they’re exactly the kind of people that you just don’t want in that field. That’s what I got with those three elementary teachers, and several other teachers along the way. I know from hearing the stories of others that it isn’t just crappy teachers in public schools. Nuns appear to be a particularly vicious phenomenon, and by now we’ve all heard about the conditions of the field of Catholic priesthood, the non-behavioral regulation of private schools, and the government interference that makes it impossible for the good teachers to even hang on and teach.

I know from my own experience that really, most teachers ¬†are bigots. I got treated poorly, as though my own contributions were somehow invalid or faked, until I encountered a teacher who raised a fat kid herself, and who probably was a fat kid at some point. I’m positive that my grades were at least half a point higher than what I was given by my kindergarten, first grade and fifth grade teachers. I’m also certain that as more children of color started attending those schools, their bigotry focused more on them. Now, I know I had good teachers – and they were few, and far between, and easily burned out as punishment for actually caring.

After all, kids of color are more likely to be disciplined and denied their education. I was just the fat kid around before the people with darker skin showed up.

I know what happened to me, and I know it had nothing to do with what I created, what I turned in, what work I did – after all, I would turn in things that were smart, right on and funny alongside my thin male counterpart and his would be praised for “humor” while I would be docked for “attitude” despite relevance to the lessons. So no, the problem was never me. I did my very best, but my teachers did not make an effort to be their very best, and took out their own fears of having a fat body and their own assumptions of my laziness over the very clearly hard work I put in front of them.

So in my defense – I was an awesome student.

My teachers at T-Ball, however, sucked ballz. Given their bigotry towards me and towards the poor kids in class, they had no business teaching at all.

– Diana

Enemies of my Creative Self Worth

There have been far less since childhood. But there are a few from back then that I didn’t visit in my Creative Monsters Hall of Fame.

Mary Gullick, Zoe Gullick, Marjory Gullick, Chloe Gullick - outside Altoncourt, Killara? c.1909 from Gullick family, c.1909-1922 / photographed by William Applegate Gullick

Mrs. Bleach

My kindergarten teacher ¬†– ¬†she often complained of my daydreaming too much. She ¬†definitely valued me less than the other students. When most of them accidentally called her “mommy” she let it slide. But since she really hated my mother for reasons unknown to me, she really would not let me call her that. She also often demanded I ask for the bathroom “properly” as in “May I got to the restroom?” when other five year olds in equal need of relief could just ask for any old term that didn’t get their pants peed in. Obviously there was more to the attitudinal abuse than just misunderstood creativity – and more’s the irony, it came out that she’s distantly related to me. Perhaps she’s one of those that caught the narcissism gene, and given I was already large at 5, she probably identified¬†the scapegoat gene in me.

Mrs. Pile-of-

My first grade teacher – another one who had some shit with my mother going on behind the scenes. She often liked to blame me when someone near me talked to me in class, reprimanding me instead of the real instigator. When I told her that she was mistaken (since she only seemed to notice when I spoke) she seemed to take some glee in saying I “had the shoe on the wrong foot.” Years later she tried to convince me a dog that was not mine was mine – she just had this condescending view of me, and truly thought I was stupid. She then got defensive when I snapped at her that I could recognize my own dog.

Mrs. Rat

My fifth grade teacher, who, notably, had some kind of friendship with my kindergarten and first grade teachers. She really had a weird fixation on me, and despite often disciplining me with little or no cause – once for smiling during a lesson, not even disrupting anything – seemed to think I should remember her fondly. I don’t. I distinctly remember her giving a good citizen award to every girl in my class except me. She also demanded that I become a “scholar.” I was 11. 11 year olds do not need to be scholars, they just need to turn in their homework on time, which I did. She seemed convinced i did not belong in the Gifted and Talented program – my test scores were low the year before because I was ill and my mother did not really prioritize my healthcare like someone who wants her child to live a long and healthy life. Honestly, I wasn’t “pretty” like the other girls in the gifted program, and that was where her insistence I didn’t belong came from. I’m well aware that the attitudes of all three teachers had everything to do with fat bigotry, but also with some bizarre ongoing conversation about my family. Ironically, she was the one that found the poem I wrote and dropped forgotten – but I suspect it was really Mrs. Wilden, the more open-minded of the fifth grade teachers, that recognized I could write.

I was friends with one of my fourth grade teacher’s sons in my late teens/early twenties. When I told his mom these stories later on, she refused to believe me.

Artist’s Way: My Blurts, My Affirmations

Unidentified woman trying on hat in front of mirror, Washington

Blurt: I’ll never be good enough for the San Francisco writer’s scene.

Affirmation: I am worthy of participation in my new community.

Blurt:This place is too big – I’ll get lost in it.

Affirmation:  I will find my way.

Blurt:People will reject me because of my body/appearance.

Affirmation: My body is a vehicle that delivers me to the people I will most benefit from knowing.

Blurt:There are people out there looking to take advantage of me.

Affirmation: I will find friends worthy of my trust.

Artist’s Way: Take 3

Sometimes in creative recovery you have to rewalk the steps, even after great successes. This is what’s happening with me right now. At the moment, my life is chaos – I am living in San Francisco, and much of my life has changed. While I have two books coming out this year, I am feeling out of touch with that deep, listening part of me that creates art. So I am once again walking the Artist’s Way myself, hoping to dig into my new framework. Especially since I am learning so much of self really is tied to geography.